In recent meetings with new and current clients to talk about search engine optimization (SEO), I have heard a lot of the same questions. It's common for people without a lot of background in online marketing to have the same concerns and confusions about SEO.
Today I'm compilling three of the top questions I get about SEO. They're broad, but they're important questions to have answered if you're considering SEO or want to understand it better.
The Top Three Questions About SEO - Answered
1. What exactly does SEO involve?
It’s not magic, but sometimes SEO can seem a bit mystical to the business person unschooled in the Web's workings. Lack of understanding can really prevent SEO clients from grasping what a company is doing when they talk about optimization.
In a nutshell, most SEO campaigns include two phrases: on-site and off-site SEO.
The on-site campaign typically involves readying a website for its target audience so that people will be most likely to find it when they search for it. You want it to perform optimally, but this takes some research and work! This phase involves in-depth keyword and industry research on what exact words and phrases need to be on the site in order for it to rank. Once an SEO consultant chooses a “keyword strategy,” they will rewrite the content, headings, meta titles, meta tags and more on the site to incorporate the strategy, often creating new content when they feel like visitors (and search engines) are going to want more information about certain services or products. Then they will beautify the site - making sure search engines will see it as valuable, and that people will love it enough to stick around. This could include beefing up content, adding graphics or videos, increasing page speed, starting a blog, or really anything that will help people and search engines see it as an authoritative, helpful site for online users.
An off-site SEO phase usually includes building brand recognition and authority for a site in the client’s industry. Websites need a lot of endorsements in order to be found - endorsements through social media, links to the site from other, more powerful sites, and mentions around the Internet. The more people are talking about your site online, the better it will perform in the search engines because Google will see that it’s important to a lot of people. SEO professionals do off-site SEO in all kinds of ways, like writing guest blog posts for sites within a client’s industry, talking to related sites to see if they’d like to include a client’s website as a resource, starting social media pages and maintaining them, writing press releases, and more.
At Happy Dog we try to keep our clients very in the loop about what we're doing by sending out detailed monthly SEO reports that break down the analytics. It’s sort of like a report card to update our clients on how their site is performing. It’s also an opportunity to tell our clients exactly what that particular month’s workload consisted of, what we accomplished, and what we plan to do in the future.
2. Why does SEO take so long to get results?
Many a crestfallen businessperson has been mortified to hear that SEO might take three-six months to sync up and start showing results, or even longer for a brand new website. This kind of long-term investment can be hard to justify.
Part of the reason for the long, slow climb to the top of the rankings is that Google does not update its search results right away after you start to improve a website. Say a person has been working their behind off optimizing for “rain gutter installation” for three days straight. They can’t expect Google to be sitting there expectantly waiting for them to finish so that Google can bump them up higher. It will most likely take some time for the “bots” to crawl a site and take note of the changes that have been made. How often does Google update its search results? Nobody really knows. Sometimes it’s much faster than you expect, and other times it’s much slower than you’d like. But we do know that it depends on the age of your site, the authority and popularity it has, and the amount and frequency of updates that have been made. It also depends on the search query. Some searches get searched way more often than others.
Another reason that good SEO takes awhile is simply that it’s hard to drum up excitement and authority about a website overnight. It’s the same way in real marketing. Anything new needs time to root, time for people to start talking about it, and time for it to slowly gain a great reputation. Push too hard and too fast, and the growth won’t be authentic or organic. You have to let things develop naturally.
3. When can I stop doing SEO for my site?
We hear this all the time! This is a great question that doesn’t have a clear cut answer. The length of your SEO investment will depend on three things:
- The competitiveness of your niche;
- Your site’s power;
- The amount of work you’ve put in.
Pulling the plug on a really successful, but still slightly new, SEO campaign can have devastating results if your SEO consultants have put in months and months to get it going. But in a niche that’s not very competitive, if you’ve reached the top, you may be able to “turn it off” and enjoy the benefits of a top spot for awhile.
Watch your back!
Here's the thing: somebody else could always swoop in. Your competitors might get motivated. So watch your back!
That’s why we typically advise our clients to continue some sort of minimal SEO, keep feeding the search engines with reasons to list them first, and keep an eye on the competition. As with any marketing efforts, if you slack off, somebody else can very easily overtake you.